By Chris Maza
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – The Teen Board at Rachel’s Table recently made the rounds to numerous emergency shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens in the Greater Springfield area, delivering much-needed milk supplies.
A team of young volunteers gathered at the Springfield Jewish Community Center to embark on a caravan on Friday, Aug. 14, bringing shelf-stable milk and chocolate milk to 14 local organizations serving people in need.
“I think Rachel’s Table is such an incredible organization and what the teens are doing is so fantastic,” said Zoe Maniaci, director of the Rachel’s Table Teen Board. “People don’t really know about the struggles we have here in the community and I think the kids really shed light on that and draw a lot of attention to what we’re doing.”
In addition to the Longmeadow Food Pantry at the Adult Center, teens delivered the milk several organizations in Springfield, Indian Orchard and Holyoke in a daylong effort supported by the Bernice and Joseph Kalicka Milk Fund and Grodsky Inc.
The Bernice and Joseph Kalicka Milk Fund is the primary funding source for the milk that is delivered annually. The Kalicka family initiated the fund in 1997 in honor of the namesakes’ 50th wedding anniversary.
“I grew up in a family that was always community-minded and looking to help out, so this seemed like the perfect gift for them,” said Judy Kalicka Ingis, who founded Rachel’s Table in 1992.
The fund initially primarily supported milk deliveries for eight local shelters, namely those for women and children, but like all of Rachel’s Table’s programming, has steadily expanded over the years.
“The problem is the need grows greater, which is so sad,” Ingis said. “Years ago at our 10-year anniversary, I was asked where I would like this to be in 10 years and I said I would love if we didn’t need to be doing this anymore and that everybody had the food they needed. Well, now we’re dealing with way more shelters and there’s so much more food insecurity.”
Ron and Susan Grodsky of Grodsky Inc. donated the driver and the truck as well as warehouse space in which the milk was stored prior to delivery.
In addition to the annual milk delivery, Maniaci explained the Teen Board takes part in fundraising and food collection efforts like the Outrun Hunger fundraiser and the annual “Foodraiser.” Teens also visit the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield to prepare meals and entertain children with activities. Additionally, Teen Board members regularly participate in “gleaning” efforts.
“Gleaning is when you go to farms and crops that have been left over and not necessarily pretty enough to sell but are still perfectly good sources of nutrition,” Maniaci explained. “The kids will come and pick and we will donate them.”
The Teen Board represents a portion of what is a diverse group of Rachel’s Table’s 230 volunteers, ranging from young children to nonagenarians, Ingis noted. Increasing teen involvement in the organization’s programming is essential to its continued success she added.
“You start with kids and you educate them and you’ll have a better world,” she said.